THE BLOG

Our Changing Nature And Why It's Time To Let Go

02/22/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011
  • Susan Smalley, Ph.D. Professor Emeritus, Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences at UCLA

A few years ago I had an epiphany of sorts in which I experienced a radical shift in consciousness, an increased insight into our 'changing nature'. I realize that such dramatic jumps in awareness are rare among the thousands and thousands of mini-jumps we experience everyday. But it also became clear that in every increase in conscious awareness is a new challenge of 'letting go' to some attachment - some idea we might be clinging to ever so subtly or hanging onto with every ounce of strength. Inevitably change occurs and our awareness merely glimpses it.

I see how hard it is to accept change at times because there is a comfort in the illusion of stability. Some of us prefer ignorance to recognizing our part in change, particularly if our actions have harmed others in the process. I've been wondering if that underlies President Bush's closing comments regarding his lack of involvement in many of the current country problems. Other times, awareness arises, we see it, and begin the process of letting go. Sometimes it is fast, sometimes slow.

I thought of this when I saw Hilary Clinton at the swearing in of President Obama. She had to let go of so many feelings to accept and embrace the change in her new position. I thought of it when I heard of Senator Edward Kennedy's collapse at the inaugural luncheon. Illness happens, often unexpectedly, sometimes forcing us to even let go of life. I thought of it when I saw the past Presidents and Vice Presidents - Carter, Clinton, Gore, Mondale, and Quayle - at the Inaugural luncheon. Leadership changes and with it often go the expectations of previous leaders.

Sometimes awareness of change is public - as in the political realm of the last four days - but most of the time it is private, the times we have to let go of hurt feelings, anger, disappointments, and a whole host of experiences.

Letting go can be hard. Whenever we do so, it means we accept a new 'self', a change in who we are, because in every shift in awareness we are no longer the person we were before it arose. And therein lies a need to 'let go' because we are usually attached to our sense of self as some stable unchanging character. When time is interspersed between such moments, like the self you were at 5 and the self you were at 30, their distinction becomes easier to see, but in every moment change arises (whether micro or macro in size).

Perhaps we need to keep reminding ourselves that with each kernel of awareness, change is evident and with it emerges a need to let go. When we see how the two are tied together, we may know that in the joy of discovery (awareness) is the struggle of release (letting go). With awareness of their repetition throughout life, perhaps both arise more readily and easily. I'm guessing that is a key to Wisdom.